Westchester's six cities would receive major increases in state aid under an agreement hammered out by state legislators, with Yonkers receiving a 25.4 percent increase valued at $20.7 million.
The agreement, ratified by a legislative conference committee, added $77.4 million to Gov. George Pataki's proposal. Now, the legislature must decide how to divvy up $1.1 billion in new school aid, which is about $500 million more than Pataki proposed. Legislators hope that will occur this week as they work toward passing an on-time budget by April 1.
"Our job is not yet done, but we have so far achieved dramatic results for the city of Yonkers," said Sen. Nicholas Spano, R-Yonkers.
While Yonkers scored a 25.4 percent increase in the plan, the county's small cities fared less well. Four of them Rye, White Plains, Mount Vernon and New Rochelle received the minimum increase of 16.4 percent, while Peekskill's aid would rise 19.6 percent.
Mount Vernon Mayor Ernie Davis wasn't happy to see his city, one of Westchester's poorest, receiving the same percentage increase as Rye, one of its wealthiest.
"This is unconscionable," Davis said. "Our city plays host to people who are economically challenged, and we've been putting forth quite an effort to help them."
Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, D-Scarsdale, said the municipal-aid deal worked out in Albany would help reverse an even worse proposal put forth by Pataki in January, which would have required that cities cut taxes in order to receive the new state money. The legislative agreement has no such requirement.
Under Pataki's plan, there was just a 3.2 percent increase for White Plains, Mount Vernon, Rye and New Rochelle, while most upstate cities would receive 11 percent increases.
The plan agreed upon would raise aid to all cities by 13 percent, to a minimum of 16.4 percent. That meant most upstate cities received a 24 percent increase.
"It's not as good as if everybody was given the same, but our cities went from receiving a tiny amount to receiving a tremendous amount," said Paulin, whose district includes parts of White Plains and New Rochelle.
Finding agreement on school aid is often one of the last items to be resolved in the budget talks. Looming over this year's negotiations is the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit, in which the Legislature was ordered by a state Supreme Court judge, and backed last week by an appellate panel, to provide an additional $4.7 billion to New York City's schools.